Places to find missing emails

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Emails can disappear in many different ways before they reach you.

Michael writes:


“You and others say to check your ‘Junk e-mail’ folder. … You should mention to check the ‘Junk e-mail’ folder on your ISP’s webmail and your local e-mail program in your articles. This is easy to overlook by someone who is not very tech savvy.

I have had several people complain to me that they would get some messages from a person, but some would not arrive. After going into their AT&T/Yahoo webmail and looking in their ‘Junk e-mail’ folder, all the missing messages were there.

It is strange why the same person’s e-mail would sometime get flagged as junk and other times as being OK. “

We’ve mentioned the fact that there are multiple layers of spam filtering many, many times in Office Watch. For example see Where could that message be?

It’s rare for ISP’s or email hosts to direct what they consider spam to an online folder for the user to check. From what Michael says ATT & Yahoo do that and certainly Gmail does too but most ISP’s do not.

In most cases the ‘spam’ messages are simply deleted with no notice to the end user that messages have been blocked. This hidden filtering is quite common but often so hidden that even support staff at the company are unaware that it takes place and tell customers that ‘we don’t have any spam filters’ which is rarely true (any responsible email host would have some spam filtering, if only for the most obvious/odious spam).

In other cases the ISP boasts about the spam filter ‘feature’ ignoring the fact that the filtering isn’t perfect and can be an annoyance to the customer. Sometimes there’s an option to change or disable the ISP spam filtering but more often you’re stuck with it.

Another consideration is the multiple layers of spam filtering within a mail host. Messages rated as very likely to be spam can be deleted with no notice to the end user while other messages, considered to be possible spam can be marked as such and passed to the end user or placed in a Junk Email folder.

Microsoft Exchange Server adopts this two level approach by default with high likelihood spam being deleted with no notice while possible spam being placed in the users Junk Email folder directly. Then there’s the third spam filter applied by Outlook itself.

Victor at our shop.Office-Watch.com online store deals with this problem every day. We send order confirmation messages to purchasers and occasionally those messages don’t arrive. That’s because it’s hard for some spam filters to tell between legitimate order confirmations and fakes. Some order confirmations are in the users Junk Email folder but in other cases the message disappears into the ISP’s email system never to be seen again. Victor has ways to help affected customers and everyone gets their ebook once he knows they are having a problem – but it’s frustrating for all concerned.


> “It is strange why the same person’s e-mail would sometime get flagged as junk and other times as being OK.”

It all has to do with the content of the message. Changing a single word can make the difference between delivery or deletion.

There’s no way to be certain. There are many spam filters available and many of those are quite configurable. Spam Assassin is a good example of a popular and configurable spam filter. Different Spam Assassin setups can score the same incoming message in very different ways depending on the setup and plugins used.

The Outlook ‘Safe Senders’ list is fine for nominating messages that are non-spam despite any spam content score. But that setting doesn’t apply to messages that are filtered before they reach Outlook (eg at an ISP or other email host).

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